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U.S. Postal Service releases findings on persistent mail delivery problems

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(The Center Square) – Following months of complaints from taxpayers and a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers citing significant delays and lost mail, the U.S. Postal Service inspector general released a report on the troubles plaguing the Richmond Processing and Distribution Center.

The report says issues stem from the July 2023 consolidation of operating centers, which is part of the postal service’s effort to “redesigning its processing network.” It is part of its 10-year strategic plan and modernize its network “based around Regional Processing and Distribution Centers.”

The Richmond Center was the first of its kind, and the report says the consolidation had “successes,” but admits it faced many challenges in its implementation – hoping the experience has helped the postal service identify challenges and lessons learned.

Among the challenges identified were additional labor and transportation costs, which totaled over $8 million in the first four months of the launch. The report says the challenges ultimately contributed to a “decrease in service performance” for the region.

Last month, The Center Square reported on lawmakers highlighting a litany of issues plaguing the new system, urging the inspector general to identify and rectify the problems. Lawmakers said they were negatively impacting Virginians.

“Since last summer, we have seen a significant uptick in mail disruptions and delays within the Richmond RPDC’s covered area,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. “These developments are especially concerning as the Richmond RPDC was one of the first implemented consolidation projects as a part of USPS’s Delivering for America initiative.”

The recent report addresses some of those concerns, blaming “preexisting issues.”

According to a summary in the report, “We identified the following opportunities for the postal service to improve performance in the region and during implementation of future RP&DCs: reviewing facilities for preexisting issues that could impact a successful rollout; including service performance as a measure of success; ensuring transportation schedules are aligned to operations and facilities adhere to the operating plans; and communicating more effectively with local management.”

The report identified 10 recommendations for management in resolving some of the problems, including addressing issues post-launch, developing procedures to “mitigate challenges” prior to the launch, better training for local managers to “understand roles and responsibilities, engagement, leadership and adequate supervision of operations,” implementing service performance measures, improving transportation schedules, recouping overpayments, establishing better communications in soliciting feedback from local managers, and “communicating impacts to communities when moving processing operations for an entire 3-digit ZIP code to another facility.”

In response to the findings, congressional leaders from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Reps. Jennifer McClellan, Bobby Scott, Abigail Spanberger, Bob Good, Jen Kiggans and Rob Wittman released a stern joint statement calling on the postal service to provide more “resources and clearer guidance” moving forward.

The lawmakers said, “It couldn’t be clearer that USPS has not been providing reliable service to Virginians, and we’ve been pressing for answers. This report pinpoints a number of issues, including a lack of coordination between USPS and staff at the Richmond Regional Processing and Distribution Center (RPDC).

“Going forward, USPS must provide more resources and clearer guidance to management and staff at RPDC, among other steps. We look forward to working with USPS to ensure that happens, the recommendations in the IG report are implemented, and mail delivery is timely for Virginians.”

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